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Life on Planet Mom

Lisa Tawn Bergren

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You're on My Last Nerve

by Lisa Bergren (book excerpt)

I love my fellow moms who believe that spending time with their children is the most scintillating, exciting thing they can do. Honestly, I wish I could be more like them; they inspire me and tell me that it is possible. But to be perfectly honest, it's taken me some pretty serious work to continually draw from my patience well when it comes to children. For instance, I loved breast-feeding, but after twenty minutes, I was ready for the baby to finish up and move on to burping. I mean, can't we all get a meal taken care of in twenty minutes? I wondered if bottle-fed babies took so long.

As the kiddos got older, other things began to sap my patience: whining, potty training, bickering, the same silly kids' shows, and a trail of toys everywhere they went. Frankly, sometimes I still get tired of dealing with kids and wish they'd behave more like adults. Then I look at my friends' children. I can't imagine how they can cope with kids who need no more than six hours of sleep a night or have an inborn monkey trait that makes them want to climb anything possible like banisters, door frames, railings, or won't obey. (I guess God gives us only what we can handle!)

One survey respondent said, "I've learned that I can be extremely impatient one minute and have the patience of a saint the next." Boy, can I relate to that! Eight out of ten times, I find the strength to pull another bucket out of that patience well and carry on. The ninth time I manage to hand children off to my husband before I lose it; the tenth time I blow a gasket. (I figure giving in to fried-dom ten percent of the time is every mom's right. I mean, we're still human, correct? It's kind of like tithing on a patience scale.) But that ninety percent of the time we have it together; it's amazing what we can deal with.

I've always said it's way easier to head off to work and negotiate adult problems than it is to spend all day and evening with children, negotiating pint-size issues. Even the biggest crisis at a job is usually resolved in a few days -- at most, a few months. Raising children, however, molding them into responsible adults, is a constant, refining process measured in fractions of a centimeter. We gain ground and then we lose it; we reestablish lost ground and then lose it again. Some days we feel like soldiers crawling up a muddy slope while under heavy fire. And somehow we find the inner strength it takes to get up, put on our helmet, and dive back into the mud the next day.

I liked these other two statements from the survey:

"I've grown more patient, more flexible, more understanding, better able to admit mistakes and apologize for them."

"I'd like to think it's made me more patient, but some days, that's questionable. But it definitely has made me realize I need to stop and think before I speak or act."

It's a humbling thing when I hit that ten-percent blow-a-gasket point and then have to apologize to my children for losing it or overreacting or yelling or exacting punishment that did not fit the crime. But when I do apologize, it resolves hurt feelings faster than anything. It's the great diffuser. After all, if my children wrong me, I demand an apology. How can I do anything else when the situation is reversed? Thankfully, children want nothing more than to love and forgive you. Listen to this story from Betsy:

"Before I became a mom, I was ambitious, driven, self-centered (although I didn't realize it!) and controlling. I had fertility issues, but hey, I had things under control, so medical science could take care of this! After three years of treatments, and finally throwing my hands up to let God have the whole situation, I became pregnant. But God wasn't finished with me. After giving birth to a beautiful boy, I was brought to my knees (no, flat on my back actually) with postpartum depression. Looking back, I still hadn't learned that God was in control, not me. When you're flat on your back, there is no place to look but up, so I was forced to let God into my world. I had kept Him at arm's distance for so long! With the help of a Christian psychiatrist, counselor, friends, and family, I got much better in the months to come. Yet I didn't come out of that valley the same person I was before. The tight grip I had on everything I assumed I could control had to loosen, and my perspective was different. There is a Sara Groves song that says, "Hope has a way of turning its face to you just when you least expect it." That hope came in the package of a little boy who is now five years old. While I am supposed to be teaching him, he teaches me so much more about love, forgiveness, and what it means to be human!

What speaks to me the most in her sweet story is that she had to let go, loosen up, and not try to control everything. These are keys to developing patience in our lives, and mothering gives us ample opportunity to practice them. Just when we think we have a little being we can mold into an image of ourselves, we realize there's only so much we can do. We do our best, over and over again, and then we have to let God do the rest. That's an incredibly freeing, bumper-stickerish statement to embrace (at least it has been for me, since I love control).

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